Karen Valentine, the star of Room 222, recalls an ‘awful’ experience she had on The Dating Game

Karen Valentine reminisces about the challenging journey that led her to her award-winning role as a student-turned-teacher in the hit TV series “Room 222.” The show, which last aired nearly 50 years ago, still holds a special place in her heart, unlike her experience on “The Dating Game,” which she describes as “awful.”

Before they became famous, stars like Suzanne Somers, Tom Selleck, Leif Garrett, and Farrah Fawcett appeared on “The Dating Game,” the first-ever dating reality show that not only inspired numerous similar concepts but also served as a launchpad for new actors. Karen Valentine was among these rising stars, invited to the show after her appearance on Chuck Barris’ “Dream Girl of 1967.”

A former teen beauty queen, Valentine had the chance to interview three eligible bachelors hidden behind a dividing wall. Expecting “harmless fun,” she found the experience dreadful due to her “choice.” She recalls, “That was awful because the guy thought this was really going to be a date. The Dating Game got more serious later where people would be sent on trips. I only got to go to the Ambassador Hotel to see a show, but the guy thought we were going to make out in the limo. It was so sleazy.”

Leaving that behind, Valentine was cast in the TV movie “Gidget Grows Up” (1969), leading to her role in “Room 222” (1969-1974). The groundbreaking show centered on a black high school teacher, played by the award-winning Lloyd Haynes, teaching students about tolerance. Created by James L. Brooks and produced by Gene Reynolds, the show won several awards, including Outstanding New Series at the Primetime Emmy Awards. Valentine and Michael Constantine both won for their supporting roles.

“It was mind-blowing to have that happen so quickly,” Valentine says of her first Emmy nomination and win. She recalls being starstruck when meeting legends like Carol Burnett and Gregory Peck.

Despite critical acclaim, “Room 222” saw its ratings decline in its fourth season and was canceled mid-season. Valentine reflects, “It’s always sad when you feel you have a good product and a good show, for it to be taken away. But the network decided to go in a different direction.”

After “Room 222,” Valentine starred in “Karen” (1975), created by Reynolds, but it was canceled after four months due to low ratings. Valentine describes the show as having “controversial political stories that were a savvy, humoristic reflection of then-current headlines.”

A versatile stage actor, Valentine appeared in Broadway productions and maintained her career as a semi-regular on “The Hollywood Squares” (1971-1977) and in TV shows like “Murder, She Wrote” and “The Love Boat.” Her last film was “Wedding Daze” (2004), co-starring with John Larroquette, broadcast on the Hallmark Channel.

Reflecting on “Room 222,” Valentine cherishes the experience: “Working with all those people and having that kind of experience first time out brings back the fondest and best memories. It set the bar really high for everything else.” She adds, “I was fortunate to get material that was pretty fun and well done.”